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Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, religious order settle sex abuse lawsuit

Updated: 2013-12-23T04:57:56Z

By JUDY L. THOMAS

The Kansas City Star

The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese and a Catholic religious order have settled a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a priest.

The lawsuit, settled for $130,000, was filed in 2012 by a former Missouri man against the Rev. James Urbanic, the diocese and the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Urbanic’s religious order. The settlement was finalized earlier this month, an attorney for the plaintiff said. The case was scheduled for trial in January.

“He’s very pleased to have this behind him and to be able to move on with his life,” said Sarah Brown, the Kansas City attorney representing John Doe M.R., who now lives in another state.

Diocesan spokesman Jack Smith said the diocese’s share of the settlement was $65,000. The diocese had no further comment on the case.

Stephen Torline, an attorney for Urbanic and the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, said the religious order also paid $65,000. He said neither client had any comment on the settlement.

The plaintiff, who filed the lawsuit in Buchanan County, alleged that Urbanic sexually abused him in the mid-1970s while he was a student at Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph. Urbanic was pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in St. Joseph and taught religion at the school.

The plaintiff alleged that he was a 15-year-old student at Bishop LeBlond when Urbanic first invited him and other students to play pickup basketball. When he arrived, the lawsuit says, the plaintiff discovered he was the only student there and played one-on-one basketball with Urbanic.

During that and subsequent basketball games, the plaintiff said, Urbanic touched him inappropriately. After the games, Urbanic routinely invited the student to the rectory for lemonade, the lawsuit alleges. On one occasion, Urbanic sexually abused him in the priest’s bedroom, according to the lawsuit.

The diocese and the religious order received reports in the mid-1970s that Urbanic had abused a student, but they failed to take action, the lawsuit alleges.

In June 2011, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood issued a statement saying that Bishop Robert Finn and the Rev. Joseph Nassal, provincial director of the Kansas City Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, had received two reports alleging that Urbanic had committed sexual improprieties with a minor. The incidents were alleged to have occurred in the mid-1970s, the statement said.

Nassal presented the allegations to the diocese’s Independent Review Board, which found them to be credible and recommended that Urbanic no longer serve in public ministry, according to the statement.

Urbanic had cooperated fully in the investigation, and in a letter to his community he acknowledged that “early in my priesthood I acted inappropriately,” the religious order said.

A diocesan spokeswoman said at the time that after Urbanic’s removal, priests from the Precious Blood order visited each parish where Urbanic had served, including St. Francis Xavier, St. James in Liberty and Sacred Heart in Warrensburg, Mo.

To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to jthomas@kcstar.com.

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